There was no mistaking the new attitude that was unleashed at Prada for fall. It charged out of the gate, looking young, angry, sexy, and serious—and dressed to tackle real life. "I'm tired of being so sweet," declared Miuccia Prada. "We women should go back to strength—and the sober side. Stop trying to appeal to everyone, and go out into the world."

As the woman who invented the lady look, Prada has a right to be the first to kill it off, and that she did, stone dead. Her models, dressed in short chunky gray sweater dresses, parkas, and signature towering platforms, carried briefcases and notebooks under their arms, as if hurrying on the way to some advanced seminar on contemporary politics. In the designer's words, "We should study."

A young woman who wears a monochrome leopard-print coat with bristling fur sleeves, or a parka with an animal attached to its back is not looking to be taken as cute. Nor are her disconcerting layerings of corsetry over sweaters aimed at being come-hither. Still, in articulating a revolutionary wardrobe for this independent young thinker, Prada is only keeping true to herself. The elements—parkas, nylon raincoats, bombers, down-beat knits, lining-fabric skirts, and buttoned-up shirts—are actually the pieces on which she founded her business. The sporty pieces are shinier and more sharply glamorous, the coats come with fur clamped to the pockets, and the air of nineties techno-utility has disappeared. But in the end, this was Miuccia Prada calling up a side of her character that has always been there—a complex, questioning female intelligence, always up for confronting reality head-on.